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Long driving commutes

orchestramomorchestramom Registered User Posts: 735 Member
edited April 2011 in Parent Cafe
I need perspectives from those of you coping with very long driving commutes. I am exploring a job opportunity that is 60 miles from my home, about 70 minutes’ drive.

The good: it’s a reverse commute (going out of the city) and it’s mostly a straight-shot drive on an interstate. And the job itself is in many ways exactly the right next step for me. The bad: we currently only have one car, so would probably need to get a second and more fuel efficient vehicle; and winter driving conditions where I live can be brutal. The ugly: gas prices; the need to hire a dog-walker, since I couldn’t possibly come home to walk the furry ones at lunch (as I could do when I worked 6 blocks from my house); and the opportunity cost of 3 hours spent commuting every day.

I’ve had long commutes before, but nothing quite like this (and I was much younger then LOL). For ten years, I did the Northern NJ commute into Manhattan (often using 3 different modes of transport, at least 90 minutes each way). Then for three years, I had a 30 mile, 45-minute driving commute when we lived in a rural area and I worked in the nearest small city.

I am really hoping that my next job will be one where I can settle and stay and sink my teeth into challenging work for the next 3-5 years, and at that point I’ll be thinking about retiring. This potential position is in my field (they are few and far between where I live) is a good match for my skills and background, and is very appealing. But am I going to regret burdening myself with a commute like this?

My H thinks I should be choosy, take my time and make sure any job I take fits into our lifestyle and doesn’t add stress and complication to my (and our) life. I’m lucky to have that choice and his support for whatever I want to do. I’m not ready to go out to pasture quite yet; I have been doing some consulting and freelance work, and in many ways that really suits me, but I think I’m too lazy to aggressively seek clients.

So I’d love to hear stories anyone would like to share….
Post edited by orchestramom on

Replies to: Long driving commutes

  • sryrstresssryrstress Registered User Posts: 2,354 Senior Member
    I hope you get some replies, because I have the very same question. There are some positions that would fit me well, and I would really like, but they are 70 minutes away. Also state highway, and also into a location which receives significant lake effect snow. I also question how the 2.5 hrs/day commute would negatively affect home quality of life.

    I've been pondering this for over a year, and haven't made the move yet. I suppose that should tell me something. Good luck to you with this decision!
  • HuntHunt Registered User Posts: 26,851 Senior Member
    (1) How long are the working hours?
    (2) How much sleep do you typically need each night?
    (3) Do you like to read? If so, recorded books can make a commute much more tolerable.
  • VeryHappyVeryHappy Registered User Posts: 16,753 Senior Member
    I am in exactly this position. My job is 69 miles from home and on a good day takes around an hour and twenty minutes. On a bad day, it can take two and a half hours.

    Instead of driving everyday, I'm "rooming" with a friend of a friend and paying her $500 per month for the privilege. I drive down Monday morning, stay in her house Monday through Thursday night, and drive home at the end of the day on Friday.

    The advantages: I can focus completely on my job. I can go to the gym (necessary for me) after work without feeling guilty about being away from DH too long.

    The disadvantages: Spending the extra money. Being away from DH. Being away from my house and my things. Missing social things at home during the week. Having my weekends feel very constrained and time-crunched.

    I'm also not at all enjoying this job, so that makes it worse. If the job were great, it would feel very different.

  • mathmommathmom Registered User Posts: 29,602 Senior Member
    The only time I had a long commute I could do it on public transportation. I got a lot of reading done and really enjoyed it as a time to destress. If traffic is not bad you might find books (or language learning) on tape will make the time pass relatively painlessly.

    I couldn't do it though. I get grumpy when I get jobs that are a 40 minute drive from me. And I generally only have to visit them half a dozen times!
  • ConsolationConsolation Registered User Posts: 21,620 Senior Member
    Years ago I commuted 50 miles by car from Wilton, CT to an upstate destination. Most of it was on 84, and I was going against the usual direction, so traffic was never an issue. I also commuted from Wilton and New Canaan to Manhattan by train, and at one point from New Canaan to upstate NJ by car.

    Driving took about an hour each way, the train took up to two hours each way (including driving to and from the station and walking once in NYC).

    The virtue of the train: ability to read, nap, do work. Once you're actually on the train, it's relaxing. Virtue of the car: greater flexibility of schedule. NPR and books on tape essential for survival. There is no doubt that it is a long drive. Much depends on your tolerance for driving, the inherent stress of the route you must take, and your ability to get sufficient exercise/sleep with that kind of commute.
  • dmd77dmd77 Registered User Posts: 8,663 Senior Member
    I had a 45 minute commute when my son was 4, a job that wouldn't permit anyone to leave before 5 (the CEO stood at the main door and watched people leave, and you heard from him if you left early!), and a babysitter who charged ten dollars a minute after 6. (My son adored her.)

    The CEO fired me after six months and I was thrilled, but it wasn't the commute that made the job misery. I actually kind of liked the commute; it was time all to myself, with no one asking me to do anything for them at all. I listened to books on tape, Spanish language learning tapes, that kind of thing.

    If it were me, and I thought the job could be great, I would take it, and after six months or so see if I could tele-commute one or two days a week, or work a 40-day-forty-hour work week.
  • BromfieldBromfield Registered User Posts: 1,936 Senior Member
    My H worked on a project 15 years ago that required a 90 minute (on the interstate) commute. He did lots of books on tape and that made the commute bearable. His expenses were paid, so gas prices weren't that much of an issue. Don't know where you live, but if you're in an area where winter driving can be difficult or even if you're not, with a long commute, you need a car that's very reliable and one that's comfortable for long trips. My H first started traveling in a mini-van and that was so uncomfortable that after 6 months he traded it in for a new, full-sized sedan. The other factor that made the commute easier was that my H was able to work from home at least one day a week.
  • intparentintparent Registered User Posts: 29,495 Senior Member
    My commute is about an hour each way. However, my company does give us the capability to work from home. While I don't do it too often, I can if a kid/pet is sick, if the weather is particularly awful, I need to be on the other side of town for an appointment, or something.

    If you decide to do this and don't have an iPod or iTouch (or iPhone), you should consider investing in one. They are great for downloading podcasts... I love "Wait, Wait, Don't Tell Me", This American Life, "t's All Politics, Storycorp, and Science Friday.
  • NewHope33NewHope33 Registered User Posts: 6,208 Senior Member
    Just reading between the lines here ...

    1. Take the job
    2. Hire a dog walker
    3. Buy an inexpensive NEW car that gets good gas mileage

    Most cars that offer excellent fuel mileage are decent in snow ... small with narrow tires and front wheel drive. Buy snow tires for winter if you're really concerned. And 120 miles/day is roughly 30K highway miles per year ... so your new car will still have value in three years.

    60 miles isn't exactly the other side of the moon. Hey, if the job was 30 miles away there wouldn't be much to discuss!
  • AllThisIsNewToMeAllThisIsNewToMe Registered User Posts: 2,252 Senior Member
    I did 1.25 hour drives each way for 18 months (contract job ended or I'd have gone longer). I got up really early and did 4 10-hour days. I loved it!
  • 3togo3togo Registered User Posts: 5,233 Senior Member
    edited March 2011
    I've had long commutes twice and once it worked OK and once it did not work at all.

    When the kids were very young (infant/toddler age) I had a long commute and it worked OK ... it was tough on my wife as she had to cover the extra hours ... however our time was very fungible so when I got home I took the kids and let her have some time ... losing a couple hours a day on the road was not great but the job (and money) was great and it worked OK for our family as we had the flexibility to work around the commute.

    Fast forward about 15 years and I have another long commute and my kids still at home are middle school and high school age and this time the commute was a killer. Now our life is much more time contrained between attending kds events and coaching one of their teams ... trying to make hard scheduled events (around 5-6 pm) coming from a long distance away was a royal pain ... and after a year of this commute I punted the job as it was just not working in a way that worked for the family.
  • jshainjshain Registered User Posts: 5,010 Senior Member
    Is it REALLY worth adding two or more hours of commute time to your life each day, wear and tear on you, extra car purchase, operating and maintainence expense, depreciation, increased car insurance, etc. etc.?

    For me, I once commuted the same time/distance as VeryHappy. I found that the morning commute was easier than the return home. On the outbound commute you're fresher and the anticipation of a new day keeps you pumped. The return home, on the other hand, really wears on you. You're tired and you just want to get home, plus night time driving is more physically draining and increases with bad weather/road conditions. In my situation, there was not snow but terrible fog during the winter months which increased the commute time substantially. I ended up moving to my commute city within 9 months.
  • BCEagle91BCEagle91 Registered User Posts: 22,762 Senior Member
    I had long commutes when I was in my 20s but later settled down with just 20 minute commutes. It makes life so much easier. If I were in your position, I would look for a semi-permanent place to stay near the office. Life is too short to spend it commuting.
  • emeraldkity4emeraldkity4 Registered User Posts: 35,861 Senior Member
    and winter driving conditions where I live can be brutal.
    This would be a concern- 60 miles from your home could easily be a 6 hr drive in bad weather conditions- in our area even longer. But do you have hills, is there a lot of traffic?

    I think it sounds like it could really add stress to your day + more expense, unless you need the job immediately, & since your husband is supportive of you finding a better fit, I would keep looking.
    What does your gut tell you?

    If you really like the position, don't be afraid to ask more questions- carpooling a possibility? working from home some days?
  • orchestramomorchestramom Registered User Posts: 735 Member
    Thanks for the replies! All very helpful comments.

    I would definitely negotiate the flexibility to work from home during extreme weather or when otherwise necessary, and I would do that upfront, not wait a few months. I also think, as someone mentioned, that the morning commute would be easier than the evening one, for a lot of reasons: I'm a morning person, up and alert at 5:30, and driving home after a long day when I'm tired and in the dark much of the year would be sub-optimum, not to mention the parking challenge in my neighborhood after 6 pm.

    I loved my long commute by public transportation, and that was in the stone ages when there were no tech-y toys to occupy me, it was a wonderful time for reading and contemplation, and de-compression in the evening. But the commitment to a long driving commute is different I think. Car-pooling is not an option based on the location of the position and also the nature of the work (I'll need a car to get to appointments during the day, often start early, sometimes work late). I'm not interested in getting temporary digs near the job, just wouldn't work for my life or our lifestyle. I'm not bothered by driving, even long distances regularly (for several years I drove D to her violin lesson 140 miles from home 2-3 Saturdays every month). I recently spent three months doing a consulting project 35 miles from home full time (and during this horrible upstate NY winter), and so I feel like I have had a preview of what I might be letting myself in for. The potential job is in a location another 25 miles further north).

    I think mainly I'm just spoiled right now :) : For the last ten years my work has been 6 blocks away from my home. And since being laid off last summer, I have really appreciated being home, working on long-deferred home and personal projects, etc... So I am acutely conscious of the work-home balancing act and want to make sure I don't upset that delicate balance. And I am in the VERY fortunate position of being able to be selective.

    We'll see how things evolve...
This discussion has been closed.